Secretary Bernhardt Announces Historic Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on Public Lands

New hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.3 million acres at 138 national wildlife refuges and nine national fish hatcheries

Last edited 06/27/2023

Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2020

SAGINAW, MI – Continuing the Trump Administration’s unprecedented efforts to increase recreational access on public lands, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced today at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge the historic opening and expansion of over 850 hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. This rule is the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in history.

“On the heels of President Trump signing the most significant conservation and recreation funding in US history, providing nearly $20 billion over the next 10 years to fix and conserve the American people’s public lands, the Trump Administration has now made an additional 2.3 million acres accessible to new hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists.”

The final rule opens or expands 859 hunting and fishing opportunities (an opportunity is defined as one species on one field station in one state). On top of last year’s expansion of 1.4 million acres for new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities, this proposal would bring the Trump Administration’s total expansion to over 4 million acres nationwide.

“The Trump Administration and Secretary Bernhardt have made access to public lands for hunting and fishing and other outdoor recreation a priority beginning day one. Hunting and fishing are a part of our American history, and we continue to ensure we provide opportunities for these activities which epitomize our American heritage,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “Furthermore, we have maintained our commitment to promoting good government by reducing the regulatory burden by working with states to facilitate these outdoor activities.”

This rule increases the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System open to public hunting to 430 and those open to fishing to 360. The rule also formally brings the total number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing to 21.

A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries opening or expanding hunting or fishing is available in the final rule. View an online list and map. The final rule includes the following opportunities:

New refuge opportunities include the opening of migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for the first time; the opening of Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming to upland game and big game hunting for the first time; and the opening of sport fishing for the first time and the expanding of existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting to new acres at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.

Expansions of refuge opportunities include existing big game hunting onto new acres at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas; season dates for existing pheasant hunting at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California; and existing migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing to new acres at Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

Changes at hatcheries include the formal opening of lands on Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting; the formal opening of lands on Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Massachusetts to sport fishing; and the formal opening of lands at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington State to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.

The rule also continues the effort from last year’s rule toward revising refuge hunting and fishing regulations, so they more closely match state regulations where the refuge is located. Whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are as consistent as possible across all refuges in a given state. Interior worked closely with the states during the rule making process.  

The final rule will publish in the Federal Register and be available at, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013.

Click here to view interactive maps of hunting and fishing opportunities, and a web page of all environmental documents related to openings and closings at all 147 affected stations.


America’s sportsmen and women generated nearly $1 billion in excise taxes last year, supporting critical state conservation programs. These funds are generated by excise tax collections on hunting, shooting and fishing equipment and boat fuel that is distributed to all 50 states and U.S. territories by the Service.

To date, the Service has distributed more than $22.9 billion in apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects. The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $7.6 billion throughout the years, primarily through hunting and fishing license revenues.

In addition to excise taxes collected from these activities, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

There are 70 national fish hatcheries visited by more than one million people each year. Hatcheries offer opportunities for viewing the operations and learning about fish, as well as activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, birdwatching and photography.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. The Refuge System receives more than 59 million annual visits. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and paddling to nature watching, photography and environmental education.


“Today’s final rule is welcome news to hunters and fishermen in Wyoming and across the country,” said U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (WY). “In Wyoming, hunting and fishing are a huge part of our way of life. I’m pleased we will now have expanded recreation access at a time where socially distant outdoor activities like hunting and fishing are more important than ever.”

“Arkansas has been blessed with abundant natural resources that offer countless opportunities for outdoor recreation. As Vice-Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, I know hunters and anglers are among the most ardent conservationists and play a crucial role in our economy. The 700,000 sportsmen and women in the Natural State create more than 25,000 jobs and generate an economic impact of more than $1 billion in the state. Increasing access to public lands also results in more dollars available for conservation. I applaud the Trump Administration for providing outdoor enthusiasts with more opportunities to hunt and fish across our nation’s pristine public lands,” said U.S. Sen. John Boozman (AR).

“This announcement to expand hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands is good news for sportsmen and for our state,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (WY). “Wyoming is home to one-of-a-kind beauty and natural treasures. It’s important to ensure that our public lands and recreational areas are accessible to the public for multiple use so those unique areas can be enjoyed by more people.”

“Unlocking federal lands and waters to hunting, fishing, and other activities gives Americans more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and boosts economic activity. I applaud the Trump administration’s actions to expand recreational opportunities on federal lands,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (UT).

“Our hunting and fishing heritage is so important to who we are as Georgians and as Americans,” said U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (GA). “Once again, the Trump administration is showing its commitment to expanding access on public lands, and this new rule is great news for Georgia's tourism, economic development and conservation efforts. I'm grateful future generations will continue to enjoy hunting and fishing, recreational shooting and have the ability to appreciate all that the outdoors has to offer.”

“Hunting and fishing are two staples of the Mountain State, making it welcome news that Interior is increasing access to the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It is important that we continue to support the outdoorsman of our state and provide adequate access to the bountiful wild game in West Virginia. I thank the Trump administration for taking notice of this opportunity in West Virginia, and I look forward to the benefits this will create for our hunters and fishers.” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (WV).

“The burdensome federal overregulation of our land is a major concern for Kentuckians, one I've long worked hard to address legislatively, including through my Defense of Environment and Property Act, and with public hearings. I held one such hearing last year in McCreary County, Kentucky, examining how excessive federal land restrictions can devastate a local economy. Today's announcement is welcome news not only for those who simply want the freedom to enjoy the land funded by their own tax dollars, but also for the local communities struggling to sustain and grow their recreational tourism businesses,” said U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (KY). “Because of this rule, places like the Clarks River station, which is currently open for migratory bird hunting, big game hunting, and sport fishing, would also be opened for upland game hunting. Additionally, the remaining refuge portion of Kentucky Lake would be open for fishing year-round. I applaud the Trump administration for giving local tourism and the recreational industry a much-needed boost.”

“Hunting and fishing are treasured traditions that have been passed down through generations of Idahoans. I applaud the Administration’s work to increase recreational access and further the opportunity for sportsmen and women across Idaho to share this legacy with their own children.” said U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (ID).

“The Trump Administration’s historic expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands is a serious win for our nation’s outdoorsmen and future conservation efforts,” said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (MS). “Recreational hunters and fishermen are among our nation’s most ardent conservationists and will help ensure these areas are preserved for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”

“I applaud President Trump and the Administration for their strong commitment to increasing recreational access on public lands. I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad and I did the same with my children,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA-01).

“I am pleased the Department of the Interior is expanding hunting and fishing opportunities across the country. This will aid in preserving public lands for the future, while allowing further outdoor sporting. This final rule is an achievement for conservationists and sportsmen alike, and I am proud the Fourth District of Oklahoma’s own Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is included in this expansion,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04).

“Expanding nationwide access to hunting and fishing opportunities is terrific public policy that will breathe new life into many of our public lands,” said Congressman James Comer. “I share the Trump Administration’s great appreciation for the outdoors and applaud the President’s dedication to expanding recreational access on public land,” said U.S. Rep. James Comer (KY-01).

“Today’s announcement is more great news for Montana and public access to our public lands. The new rule builds upon last year’s expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on our public lands in Montana and across the West. I applaud the Trump administration for its commitment to increasing public access to our public lands, and I’ll continue working with the administration and lawmakers to keep the momentum going,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (MT).

“Hunting and fishing is something I enjoy with my family and this rule will allow more families to spend time together outdoors, including in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Thank you, President Trump, for supporting this historic action to make our public lands more accessible,” said U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02).

“Nine national wildlife refuges with numerous sounds and rivers reside in North Carolina’s Third Congressional District. I commend President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for their continued efforts to expand recreational access to public lands and waterways. I hope that our hunters and anglers in eastern North Carolina take advantage of these opportunities to responsibly enjoy the outdoors,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy, M.D. (NC-03).

“As an avid sportsman, I applaud the President’s Administration for expanding outdoor fishing and hunting activities for everyone. This was an historic move that will allow for more Americans to enjoy these sporting opportunities while hopefully coming to appreciate and respect the natural resources that exist right here in the United States,” said U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo (MS-04).

“I am happy to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalize this rule that will expand hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands in Minnesota and across the country. Minnesota is home to many sportsmen that will benefit from this increased access and I applaud the agency’s efforts to support our state’s outdoor traditions,” said U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07).

“As an avid outdoorsman and Co-Chair of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus, I am committed to protecting sportsmen’s access to our natural resources, which is why I am very pleased to see the Administration’s plan to increase recreational access on America’s public lands. This move will open up thousands of acres to recreational hunting and fishing, important to millions of Americans and many in my home state of Georgia,” said U.S. Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08). “I thank President Trump for his commitment to America’s sportsmen and women, and I look forward to continuing to expand Americans’ access to our nation’s public lands.”

“Public lands should be available for as many uses as reasonably possible. I am happy to see the Administration’s commitment to increasing access to our public lands,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02).

“Growing up in Arkansas, some of my earliest memories involve hunting and fishing around the state. More people should have these outdoor recreation opportunities, which is why I’m glad to see the Fish and Wildlife Service expanding access to millions more acres across the U.S. Public land should be just that: public and available for Americans to explore and enjoy. I applaud the Administration for their proactive approach to outdoor recreation,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04).

“Today’s announcement exemplifies the optimism and excitement that our industry members share regarding the future of hunting participation across this country,” said Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer for the Archery Trade Association Dan Forster. “Improving access for outdoor enthusiasts is a critical component to ensuring a bright future for our industry and our hunting and fishing constituency. This unprecedented expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a monumental and refreshing achievement and we applaud Secretary Bernhardt and his team for their continued and strong leadership supporting hunters and anglers across the United States.”

“The American public needs outdoor recreation opportunities for their physical and mental well-being more than ever,” said Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Kelly Hepler. “By practicing responsible recreation, Americans can enjoy these new opportunities to get outside to enjoy the lands and waters, and fish and wildlife resources, of our great nation.”

“The National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of public lands and waters that are critically important to sportsmen and women by providing 2.4 million hunting visits and 7.1 million fishing visits annually,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “This expansion, which will be the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities in the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, clearly demonstrates Secretary Bernhardt’s commitment to sportsmen and women.”

“We sincerely appreciate the leadership of Secretary Bernhardt and the hard work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hunt/Fish teams to bring this rule to fruition,” said Senior Vice President of Delta Waterfowl John Devney. “The 2020 Rule coupled with the work done in the last several years to increase access to our refuges, is making a significant difference to provide new hunting opportunities. We look forward to working with the Service to continue to focus on priority waterfowl refuges in the coming year to bring even more access to duck hunters across the country.”

“Now, more than ever, Americans are desperate to get outside and enjoy all of the natural beauty our nation has to offer,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “This historic expansion of access to our public lands will provide increased opportunities for hunters, anglers, hikers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts – or simply those who seek an outlet from being cooped up indoors these last few months. DU applauds this final rule by Secretary Bernhardt and Director Skipwith. We look forward to its swift implementation and to getting America back to nature for the best social distancing there is and the cheapest therapy available: the outdoors.”

“Today’s action by the Department of the Interior to expand hunting and fishing on more than 2.3 million acres of national wildlife refuges shows this administration’s continued commitment to increase access for sportsmen and women,” said Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Miles Moretti. “Through this rule, refuges like Fallon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada will allow mule deer hunting for the first time. We appreciate the work of Secretary Bernhardt and Director Skipwith and the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their continued work supporting new opportunities for big game hunting within the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

“No one in modern history has done more than the Trump Administration to provide America's sportsmen and women with greater opportunities to enjoy the outdoors,” said the National Rifle Association’s Director of the Hunters’ Leadership Forum Erica Tergeson. “This rule is just another example of the commonsense actions that can make hunting and fishing more accessible to all Americans. Secretary Bernhardt and Director Skipwith continue to show their dedication to hunters and wildlife conservation.”

“This is an example of promises kept by the Trump Administration for America’s sportsmen and women,” said Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation Lawrence G. Keane. “Secretary David Bernhardt and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith recognize that our nation’s public lands belong to all Americans and the Trump Administration delivered on the guarantee that those lands and waters are accessible to America’s conservation-minded hunters and recreational target shooters. Those men and women are the greatest stewards of our natural resources and this initiative to expand and open new opportunities will nurture the next generation to enjoy and preserve our national outdoor heritage.”

“The National Wild Turkey Federation thanks the Department of Interior for their continued efforts to provide quality places for hunting, angling, and other recreation,” said CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation Becky Humphries. “Providing an additional 2.3 million acres of new opportunities and access builds on the legacy of this Administration. Now more than ever this country needs places where we can go to practice responsible recreation. This effort ties directly to the NWTF’s hunter recruitment and retention efforts by reducing barriers to hunting.”

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members look forward to the fall when we can enjoy the new upland bird hunting access created within the collective 2.3 million acres of newly opened public lands. We thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for creating and enhancing new areas for our members to recreate,” said Howard K. Vincent, President and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.

“We commend the Trump Administration and Secretary Bernhardt for proposing the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities in history,” said W. Laird Hamberlin, CEO of Safari Club International. “This monumental step will increase access to our country’s unmatched public lands for hunters and anglers alike. America’s sporting heritage plays a vital role in many states’ economies, and hunters are the single largest source of funding for their conservation efforts. Outdoor recreational access is important now more than ever, so hunters across the nation have every reason to be thankful to this Administration for prioritizing this unprecedented expansion of opportunity for sportsmen and women.”

“The rule expanding hunting and fishing on national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries across the country, helps us all achieve our goals of engaging and creating opportunities for urban communities to connect with nature through hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreational activities,” said Wayne Hubbard, Co-founder of Urban American Outdoors. “It is great to see the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service moving forward creating more access for all.”

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